3 credit course
This course revolves around two basic presuppositions: 1) Nihilism, a philosophical position asserting the negation of all value and meaning, is the pervading cultural ethos of the post-Christian modern world and how 2) Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, offer the only viable alternative to the nihilistic culture of death so present today. The current cultural crisis of nihilism is complicated and multi-faceted. For this reason, this course draws upon several disciplines, including philosophy, literature, and theology to analyze the roots and consequences of nihilism and the Catholic response to it.
The course will proceed in three general movements. First, students will study Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous German philosopher, to gain a clear understanding of what nihilism means as a philosophical position impacting culture. Selections from The Basic Writings of Nietzsche and Thus Spoke Zarathustra will be studied. Second, course participants will read several modern literary works that dramatically exemplify the horrific cultural consequences of nihilism, including Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and several short works by the American Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor. Third, this course will focus on the Magisterium of the Church by reviewing key sections of the encyclicals Gaudium et Spes and Fides et Ratio to appreciate how the Church offers modern men and women a hopeful response to the spiritual disease of nihilism.
This course includes written lectures and online discussion.